Posts Tagged ‘Lockheed Martin’

'This Week In Space' – July 11, 2010

July 11, 2010

The latest edition of “This Week In Space” is now available for your viewing pleasure.  Please give us a look…

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ET-138 rolls out at the Michoud Assemby Facility. Source: NASA

Hello and Welcome. We begin with a big orange caboose – if you will. The last space shuttle external fuel tank on the manifest made its way out of the barn at  Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The tank  is known affectionately as ET-138…but you can can call her “E” if you like. Tank builder Lockheed Martin pulled out all the stops for this one – hundreds of workers were on hand while a brass band played. The tank will ride on its custom barge to the Kennedy Space Center where it will be mated with Endeavour, now slated to fly the final shuttle mission N-E-T – or no earlier than – February 26th, 2011. Now there is one more tank that will be shipped from Michoud – it will be used by Atlantis should the Endeavour crew get in a jam – and need a lift home. And this is where I get to put in my plug for flying that tank – with Atlantis – one more time. Why not? And this is also where I get to nag you: if you have not seen a shuttle ride the fire to orbit – you are assigned to be at one of the last launches. No excuses. There will be a test later.

Tanks for the memories – I guess – prime shuttle contractor United Space Alliance announced its largest layoff to date –  15 percent of its workforce.  Most of those employees are in Florida – since that is where most of their employees live.  Somewhere between 800 to a thousand wrench turners and pad rats will be getting pink slips.   Another 400 or so will be sacked from other USA operations. More cuts, are expected of course as the program winds down.

And that would explain the turnout at recent job fairs at KSC – somewhere between 2 and three thousand shuttlers showed up to press the flesh and hand deliver some resumes. About 60 public and private sector employers showed up. Can you guess which company had the most popular booth? Why that would be a certain California based launch company called SpaceX.  Better SpaceX than ex-space I suppose.

If any of those jobless USAers are space history buffs – and I know there are more than a few you – you may want to consider this job: official NASA historian. apply at USAjobs.gov by the 13th. Also in the comings and goings department – NASA’s Wayne Hale is hanging up his headset but we hope not his keyboard – the veteran flight director, shuttle program manager – and eloquent blogger says its a personal decision. I sure hope he keeps sharing his pearls of wisdom with us. And the Hubble repairman just added another line to his long resume – John Grunsfeld is now a research professor at Johns Hopkins. he will keep his gig down the road as the number two man at the space telescope science institute – which is Hubble Science Central. Hey if he can’t multi task – who can?

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'This Week in Space' – June 13, 2010

June 14, 2010

David Waters is your host for the latest edition of “This Week In Space.”  Check us out!

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Hayabusa. Source: JAXA

It was a nail biter – sample return missions always are – but in the end JAXA pulled it out and the troubled Japanese “Hayabusa” mission to land on an asteroid and collect a sample ended on a high note.  A small capsule containing dust from the asteroid Itokawa touched down Sunday under parachute at the Woomera test range in the Australian Outback.  Launched in May 2003, Hayabusa suffered a host of technical problems and malfunctions, but in the end came home.  For those of you keeping score, NASA is 1 for 1 on sample return missions in recent years.  The Genesis spacecraft, which returned a sample of the solar wind to Earth for analysis, cratered in the desert of Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground back in 2004 when its drogue parachute failed to deploy.  Some of the sample return payload survived the crash, though.  On a happier note, the Stardust spacecraft successfully returned a dust sample from the tail of the comet Wild 2 in 2006…also to the Dugway Proving Ground.   And to answer your final question – yes, I know what it is –  “Hayabusa” means “Peregrin Falcon.”

While the Japanese were celebrating, the South Koreans – well, no so much. They “had a bad day” on Thursday as they say in the rocket business.  A Russian-built Naro-1 rocket launched from the Naro Space Center and all appeared fine at first, but mission controllers lost contact with it 137 seconds into flight.  Korean news reports indicated it exploded and crashed.  This is the second failure in two tries for the Koreans, who are attempting to establish a toehold in the satellite launch club.  Currently, eight countries and Europe have established launch capability.

And, before we leave the Pacific Rim…What was that glowing spiral in the sky over Australia last Saturday morning?  Could it be ALIENS?  Well, as it turns out, no.  It was actually Falcon 9.  Despite the spate of UFO reports that were phoned in to TV stations around Australia, SpaceX founder Elon Musk told our friends at Space.com that folks were actually seeing Falcon 9 venting propellants after it rocketed to orbit.  The sun caught the event at just the right angle to put on a show for the Aussies.

Thousands of contractor employees who work on the Constellation program have known the pink slips were coming ever since the Obama Administration announced plans to cancel the moon-shot project in February –  but now it looks like they may be hitting the unemployment line earlier than they thought.  NASA has told big contractors Lockheed Martin and ATK to come up with the money  to cover the costs of bringing Constellation to an end, even though Congress has not signed off of the cancellation yet.  It seems Lockmart and ATK are contractually required to pay those termination costs…which will total about a billion dollars.  Now those companies will likely have to lay off workers to pull that money together.  Expect this latest development to further poison the already nasty debate going on between the Administration, NASA and Congress over the future of the manned spaceflight program.  We’ll have more on this for you in next week’s show.

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'This Week In Space' – April 10, 2010

April 11, 2010

The latest edition of “This Week In Space” is hot off the presses.  Check us out!

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Discovery launch. Source: NASA

Hello and welcome – and happy Yuri’s night – hard to believe it has now been 49 years since the first human being left the planet – and 29 years since the first shuttle flew – we’ll check in with one of the founders of the global Yuri’s night celebration – in a little while – see what is in store this year –

But first – let’s talk about the 131st space shuttle mission – currently “in work” as they say in the space business. I must admit – I am pretty lucky to have witnessed a lot of shuttle launches – and each of them is beautiful in their own special way – like a snowflake I suppose…but this one stands out – for one thing – we got a great view of Discovery’s destination – the international space station – as it flew overhead in the predawn darkness shortly before launch…then came the launch itself,

Those of us at the cape were able to see Discovery with eyes only – for a full seven and a half minutes – no one can remember anything like that – and then after Discovery was out of view and safely in space – were were left with this spectacular scene as the sun rose…remnants of the shuttle plume lit up like a pastel painting…

Discovery commander Alan Poindexter had to dock his craft at the station without the benefit of a radar system that failed. It is the same device that allows the orbiter to send out streaming video (or what we used to call TV)…and so that meant they had to record the heat shield inspection – and then send it down to earth using the station’s system.

The joint crews successfully attached the space equivalent of a PODS moving crate to the station – the Leonardo Multipurpose Logistics Module – in it – about 17 thousand pounds of gear and supplies – including some new crew sleep quarters…a fancy exercise machine that will give researchers a better idea about how physically fit the station-keepers are…and a device that ads cameras, spectrometers and other sensors to better observe the earth as it passes below the station.

They do see some cool things up there – look at this shot from crew member Soichi Noguchi of the Aurora Boraealis – or Northern Lights – he tweeted that one down.

Three spacewalks are planned for the 13 day mission.

Late as this is in the shuttle program – there is still room for some firsts as well as lasts – there are four women on the  combined shuttle station crews – a space record. And no – none of them stopped and asked for directions.

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Orion Agonistes

February 13, 2010
Orion.  Source:  NASA

Orion. Source: NASA

NASA’s budget rollout was confused – but so is the message – we do know this: the Obama White House would like NASA to get out of the low earth orbit taxi business – and instead get the private sector to get some skin in the game – and build what amounts to private spaceliners that NASA – and those who have the cash – can fly to space. Arthur C. Clarke would be proud…but beyond low earth orbit things get murky and vague – NASA will spend money on cool new technologies that might one day get us farther into the solar system a lot faster – but there is no destination or date. Later in the week, Bolden told the Houston Chronicle his personal vision is a piloted mission to Mars. You have to wonder if the White House is on board with that. Meanwhile the big contractors who are a part of Constellation are scheduling therapy for Post Traumatic Stress – at Lockheed Martin, they were hoping their piece of the program – the Orion capsule survive – no such luck.  the man in charge there – John Karas – joined me at the cape during the shuttle countdown.

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Good Night Moon

January 30, 2010
Ares I-X Launch.  Source:  NASA/Scott Andrews, Cannon

Ares I-X Launch. Source: NASA/Scott Andrews, Cannon

No bucks – no buck Rogers – Our sources tell us NASA is no longer headed back to the moon – or anywhere else for that matter.
After spending upwards of 9 billion dollars to design the Ares 1 rocket – the Orion space capsule – the altair lunar lander -all collectively known as the Constellation Project –  NASA is being told by the Obama white house to scrap the whole program. The Vision for Space Exploration rolled out by George Bush 6 years ago this month – was never funded properly – and never gelled with the public.

NASA will get a little more money in its budget – which is more than most federal agencies can say – for Earth Science the International space station and for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services – or COTS – which envisions privately operated rocket rides to the space station. But nowhere near the dollars needed to chart a course for manned exploration beyond low earth orbit.
Grim news for those of us who care about human exploration of space – even worse if your livliehood depends on it. For more, I talked to John Karas – VP and General Manager of Human Space flight for Lockheed Martin – prime contractor for the Orion capsule:

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I guess I don't have to change my name to 'Kilometers'

May 30, 2009

marsclimate

Do you all remember the infamous crash of the Mars Climate Orbiter? It was one of two NASA missions to the Red Planet that crashed in 1999 as they reached the end of their long journeys from Earth. Mars Polar Lander made a hole in the rusty dirt in in December – after an on board sensor designed to extinguish the rocket motor once it landed mistook the jolt of the landing gear deploying as a safe touchdown – and shut off the engine while MPL was still 1200 feet above the surface.

MCO was supposed to orbit the Red Planet – but instead entered the atmosphere way too low and burned up in September . The navigation error occurred because the NASA team at the Jet Propulsion Lab in La Canada, CA was using the metric system (newtons) to measure the force created by a thruster – while the Lockheed Martin team in Denver was using imperial units (pound force). One pound force equals approximately 4.45 newtons, and the thruster firings were nothing more than mouse farts, so the discrepency was not obvious just by looking at the numbers. Unfortunately, the two teams never cross-checked their navigantion data. The rest is history – and the ignominous end to then NASA Administrator Dan Goldin’s “Faster, Better, Cheaper” approach to space exploration.

Which brings me to the posting below on NASAWatch.com. NASA is under a mandate to go metric because of the MCO mishap. But the agency is resisting the change for some reason. The irony is it was the JPL/NASA team using the metric system in the first place. LockMart was using pounds.

These days there is a lot of talk about the US remaining competitive in a global economy – and switching to the metric system is something that we should have done a long time ago. Jimmy Carter tried in the 70s…but he apparently didn’t have the newtons to move the masses.

“Following the loss of the Mars Climate Observer, the NASA Office of Inspector General initiated a review of the Agency’s use of the metric system. By law and policy, the metric system is the preferred system of measurement within NASA. However, our review found that use of the metric system is inconsistent across the Agency. A waiver system, which was required by law and put into effect to track metric usage and encourage conversion, is no longer in use. In addition, NASA employees are given little guidance on the Agency’s policy and procedures regarding use of the metric system.”

via NASA Finds The Metric System Too Hard To Implement for Constellation | NASA Watch.

Wanted: Space Cadets with Open Minds

May 28, 2009

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Ares V rocket at "booster sep". From NASA

Ares V rocket at "booster sep". From NASA

Norm Augustine, the man who is leading the White House scrubbing of NASA’s post-shuttle plans, has apparently selected a group of experts who have not made up their mind about the future of space exploration in this country.

They are going to have to be quick workers on deadline as well – as their report is due at the end of the summer.

I guess it would not be considered proper to have the NASA Administrator-elect Charlie Bolden sitting at the table for this (couldn’t call it independent anymore…), but since this group will be making some crucial decisions for him (like whether to build the Ares V heavy lift rocket), it would seem only fair that he be in the loop and be heard…

Norm Augustine

Norm Augustine

BETHESDA, Md. – Membership in the White House/NASA panel being set up to give the Obama administration a quick review of the U.S. human spaceflight program will be announced as early as May 27, and the group of 10 aerospace experts should clear all the regulatory wickets to begin work in about two weeks, according to Norman Augustine, the retired Lockheed Martin CEO who will chair the group.

Augustine, who took the job after discussing it with officials of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget, and key members of Congress, said in an interview May 26 that the panel will consist of experts who are “fully open-minded on the subjects.

via Spaceflight Panel Wants Open Minds | AVIATION WEEK.